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A Magical Guide to Christmas in Austin, Texas in 2023

Are you looking for a festive and fun way to celebrate Christmas? Look no further than Christmas in Austin, Texas! The city comes alive with holiday cheer and there are plenty of activities to enjoy from twinkling lights to Christmas markets.

One of the most popular Christmas attractions in Austin is the Trail of Lights at Zilker Park. With over 2 million lights, nearly 100 trees, and dozens of other lighted displays, it’s a magical experience. And if you’re looking for a unique way to celebrate, you can even go ice skating on the roof of Whole Foods!

Austin also has plenty of Christmas markets and events to explore. You can shop for unique gifts at the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar or the Blue Genie Art Bazaar, or enjoy live music and food at the German Christmas Market. And if you’re looking for a laugh, you can catch a holiday movie screening at the Alamo Drafthouse.

We live just minutes from Austin and our favorite thing to do each Christmas is visit the tree at the Capitol building and watch the holiday light show at Mozart’s! I’ll fill you in on the locals’ details and tips below to help you experience the magic of Christmas in Austin this holiday season.

Congress Avenue Bridge, Austin, Texas -
Austin, Texas skyline

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Travel Tips for Christmas in Austin

If you’re planning to spend Christmas in Austin as a visitor, there are a few travel tips that you should keep in mind to make the most of your time in the city. Here are some things to consider:

Transportation

Austin is a large city, so it’s important to plan your transportation ahead of time. Some public transportation is available, but it may not be the most convenient option. We recommend renting a car so you can easily venture around the city and to some surrounding small towns, But using ride-sharing services like Uber or Lyft to get around is a good option if you plan to stay in the city.

Weather

Austin can get chilly in December, so be sure to pack warm clothing for your Christmas in Texas. However, the weather can also be unpredictable, so it’s a good idea to bring layers that you can easily add or remove as needed.

In 2021, it was 90 degrees on Christmas and we were sweating and then in 2022 it was in the 40s and we were freezing! So you literally never know!

Want to book a holiday photo shoot in Austin?

Whether Austin is your hometown or holiday getaway….we highly recommend booking a photo shoot to capture the memories!

Photo Shoots are our absolute FAVORITE vacation souvenirs as well as our favorite gift to give others!

Use this link to get $25 off your first photo session with Flytographer!

Photo Credit: Robyn in Austin with Flytographer

Christmas Lights in Austin

Austin’s Christmas lights are among the best in the state. You’ll find both long lasting traditions and new, exciting options. Check the dates carefully below and pencil a few into your schedule – I do this every year starting in September so that I don’t miss my favorites or a magical Austin Christmas.!

State Capitol Building

  • 2023 Season Dates: Holiday Stroll + Tree Lighting on December 3, 2023 5-10pm
    • Lit tree all season at 6pm each evening
  • Location: 1100 Congress Ave., Austin, TX 78701
  • Admission: Free

The Holiday Sing-Along and Downtown Stroll is a free event that takes place in the heart of Austin. This festive event features live music, holiday caroling, and a special appearance by Santa Claus himself. Ho ho ho! You can also enjoy food and drinks from local vendors while strolling through the downtown area.

The tree will be lit every evening throughout the season, so no worries if you miss the big event! You can still visit the Capitol in all its holiday finest.

Austin Texas - State Capitol Building

Zilker Park Trail of Lights

One of the most popular holiday events is the Trail of Lights. This family-friendly festival fills Zilker Park with more than 2 million Christmas lights (and almost as many people!) and has been a city tradition for decades. Along the trail, there are 70 displays and lighted tunnels plus nearly 100 trees lit up in the colors of the season.

Visit for the ceremonial tree lighting of the Zilker tree for a truly special celebration. This 155 foot tree has been a centerpiece of Christmas in Austin for generations.

>>> Read Next: More Drive-thru Lights in Texas

Trail of Lights in Austin Texas
Austin holiday lights

Peppermint Parkway

Peppermint Parkway is a mile-long drive-thru holiday extravaganza that unfolds at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin. With a Candy Cane Cruise ticket, you can take a parade lap on COTA’s iconic track, and don’t forget to visit Peppermint Plaza, where you’ll have the chance to meet Santa Claus and enjoy delicious food, thrilling rides, and exciting activities.

Over SIX MILLION holiday lights twinkle along your journey (so yes, it IS one of the best places to see Christmas lights in Texas!), accompanied by eight themed villages, whimsical dancing characters, and a holiday plaza. But if the idea of strolling or jogging through the course appeals to you more than driving, then don’t let the opportunity slip by – sign up for the 2-mile Fun Run scheduled for December 2nd.

Mozart’s Coffee Roasters

The Light Show at Mozart’s has earned its spot as an enchanting holiday tradition in our family. Mozart’s is one of the prime destinations for experiencing the magic of Christmas in Austin and one of the reasons the city made our list of the best Christmas towns in Texas.

Mozart's Coffee Roasters in Austin | Red Truck Christmas Decor and Lights

The main attraction here is the spectacular light show that unfolds every hour, a mesmerizing performance that will truly amaze you. You have a choice of how you’d like to enjoy this dazzling display, whether it’s through free reserved standing spots, paid reserved seating, or even a scenic boat ride along the serene lake, providing a unique vantage point for the show.

Outdoor seating at Austin's Christmas light show at Mozart's
Christmas Coffee Mug at Mozart's Coffee Roasters in Austin

Make sure to wander through the Bavarian Marketplace; don’t miss out on the opportunity to savor a steaming cup of hot cocoa, served in a memorable mug to keep. And when it comes to snacks, the cinnamon sugar and salt pretzels are an absolute must-try!

Don’t forget to make a reservation!

Austin Christmas Lights

37th Street Christmas Lights

Austin is creative and quirky and that is just what you’ll find on 37th Street! Dozens of houses are decked out in fun, festive twinkling lights, making it the best place for an evening walk in Austin during the Christmas season.

Plan to park and walk or you will be stuck in too much traffic. Walk down 37th Street between Home Lane and Guadalupe Street, but don’t miss heading around the surrounding blocks too.

Merry + Bright Activities for Christmas in Austin

Austin offers so many things to do year round, but here are some fun and festive activities that are only offered during the holiday season. Austin does not disappoint when offering up plenty of merry activities to enjoy!

Ice Rodeo at the Four Seasons

If you’re on the hunt for festive and enjoyable activities in Austin during the Christmas season, make sure to add the Ice Rodeo at Four Seasons to your must-visit list. Located at the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Austin, this holiday extravaganza promises a magical experience for anyone who adores the holiday spirit.

The Ice Rodeo at Four Seasons showcases a magnificent 30-foot tree adorned with some of the most beautiful holiday lights you’ll find in Austin. The star of the show is undoubtedly the ice skating rink, with views of the scenic shores of Lady Bird Lake. For a touch of luxury, consider indulging in a private cabana and fire pit, perfect for roasting some tasty s’mores and creating fun memories.

Be sure not to miss a stroll through the lobby, where even more festive décor awaits including a life-size gingerbread airstream complete with hundreds of pounds of frosting.

Holiday Story Time the Central Library

For an unlikely spot to soak up Christmas in Austin, check out the Austin Central Library. You’ll find holiday celebrations, caroling, and story times on their list along with a gorgeously decorated tree as the centerpiece.

Photo Spots + Santa at the Domain Northside

The Domain is a sprawling outdoor shopping center located in North Austin. During Christmas, the area is transformed into a winter wonderland. There are over 100 stores at The Domain, ranging from high-end fashion boutiques to popular chain stores. You’ll also find a variety of restaurants and cafes, making it a great place to spend an entire day.

One of the highlights of The Domain during Christmas is the nightly light show. The entire shopping center is lit up with thousands of twinkling lights, synchronized to holiday music. It’s a truly magical experience and fun for kids too.

Holiday Pop-Up Bar

For a grown-up experience, head to the Miracle on 5th Street pop-up bar, where you can enjoy holiday décor and drinks like the “Christmapolitan” and the “Snowball Old Fashioned.” for an extra quirky choice, choose the “Grandma Got Run Over by a T-Rex.”

Visit the Historic Driskill Hotel

Christmas at The Driskill is a truly enchanting experience that fills you with the holiday spirit from the moment you step through the doors. The iconic Driskill Bar serves up the delightful Nutcracker cocktail, a festive treat that’s become legendary,

Every nook and cranny of the hotel is adorned with festive lights and decorations. The grand staircase serves as a magnificent backdrop to the festivities, setting the stage for the holiday magic that awaits.

Christmas in Austin at the Driskill Hotel

In the heart of the lobby, a majestic 16-foot Douglas fir Christmas tree stands tall, the centerpiece of the hotel’s holiday décor. The ceremonial Tree Lighting event, accompanied by live music and delectable cocktails, marks the official start of the holiday season at The Driskill.

If you’d like to book an overnight stay at the Driskill (incredibly charming!), you’ll find extra time to enjoy the holiday cocktails, as well as tasty in-room treats!

And the best part? You can bask in the Texan Christmas ambiance throughout December. Simply visit the lobby anytime during the month to soak in the festive spirit and marvel at the signature 16-foot Christmas tree.

Ice Skating at the Long Center

Ice Skating in Austin? Yes, please!

During the holiday season, Long Center in downtown Austin transforms into a lovely outdoor ice skating rink. The views of the Austin skyline are beautiful and the prices are reasonable.

Make sure to plan ahead and book tickets as they usually sell out!

Holiday in the Hills at Omni Barton Creek

Holiday in the Hills is a new event for our family, but one that we are really excited to try out. I’m always drawn to lights, so the twinkling trail though the hills at the Omni is calling my name for sure! Nightly “Snow” on the lawn is sure to bring some holiday magic to the evening for all ages.

Other activities at the resort include a hot cocoa workshop, gingerbread decorating, breakfast with the jolly man himself, stuffed animal creating, festive cocktails and sweet s’mores, and holiday movies on the lawn.

Christmas Entertainment in Austin

The Nutcracker at Ballet Austin

This holiday season, don’t miss the 61st annual production of The Nutcracker, a cherished tradition that has held Austin captive as its longest-running live production. Tchaikovsky’s score will be performed live by the Austin Symphony Orchestra.

Christmas Classics at the Alamo Drafthouse

At the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, indulging in Christmas classics is a fun locals’ tradition. As you settle into your cozy seat, the set the stage for a magical movie night. From timeless classics to beloved favorites, the silver screen comes alive with Christmas classics such as The Grinch, Love Actually, and It’s a Wonderful Life.

Zach Theater

Hop over to Zach Theater for their holiday performances this season. You’ll find A Christmas Carol, Una Noche Buena, and Pop!, a holiday cabaret, on the seasonal calendar for 2023.

Austin Christmas Tree Farms

As you wander through rows of fragrant evergreens in search of that perfect tree at a Christmas tree farm in Austin, it is a magical tradition to enjoy! Having gone on this festive adventure year after year, my family and I have had the joy of discovering some of the sweetest tree farms Austin has to offer. Check them out below!

Christmas at an Austin tree farm in 2021
Christmas at an Austin tree farm in 2021

Elgin Christmas Tree Farm

Elgin Christmas Tree Farm, just a short drive from Austin, is a hidden gem that promises a joyful experience. The farm boasts a splendid array of trees, a warm and welcoming team that treats you like family, and a host of engaging activities.

Prepare for encounters with their furry farm friends and hayrides that add an extra sprinkle of charm to your visit. Don’t forget to explore their delightful gift shop, where you can find ornaments and holiday treats that will make your day unforgettable. On Sundays, they host a charming church gathering at 11 am, setting the perfect tone for the excitement of choosing your tree, which starts at 12 pm.

Evergreen Christmas Tree Farm

For a Texas-sized dose of Christmas charm, Evergreen Farms in the heart of Austin is a wonderful choice that’s been creating seasonal magic for over 30 years. Climb aboard the tractor, grab a saw, and embark on a quest to find that perfect tree that’ll light up your space. Alternatively, you can opt for a magnificent Noble Fir imported from North Carolina.

But Evergreen Farms doesn’t stop at just offering stunning trees; they add a dash of fun to your visit with engaging lawn games, friendly farm animals, and a tempting weekend s’mores station – pure yum!

In 2021, my family and I made our way to Elgin’s tree farm for our Christmas tree hunt. We visited during the second weekend after Thanksgiving, and the tree selection was a bit slim. For the cream of the crop, planning your visit for their opening weekend is a smart move!

Brungot Tree Farm

Brungot Farms, in collaboration with trusted partners from North Carolina, West Virginia, and Oregon, brings the magic of Christmas to the heart of Austin by offering the freshest and most stunning Christmas trees available. These trees, primarily Fraser fir and Noble fir varieties, are handpicked by Brungot Farms to ensure that every branch sparkles with freshness and top-notch quality.

Family at a Christmas Tree Farm
Enjoying our favorite tradition – Christmas tree farms!

Holiday Christmas Markets in Austin

Armadillo Christmas Bazaar

The Armadillo Christmas Bazaar is a must-visit event for anyone looking for unique and handmade gifts. This annual event features over 160 local artists and artisans selling their goods. You can browse through jewelry, pottery, art, and more while enjoying live music and delicious food.

German Christmas Market

The German Christmas Market is a festive event that celebrates the traditions of Germany and Central Europe. This market features vendors selling handmade crafts, traditional foods, holiday treats, and decorations imported directly from Germany. You can also enjoy live music, dancing, and other entertainment along with authentic spiced wine.

Blue Genie Art Bazaar

The Blue Genie Bazaar in Austin is like stepping into a colorful wonderland! It’s filled with amazing items made by local artists. As you wander around, you’ll meet the artists and hear their stories.

You can find all kinds of unique things here, like jewelry, art, home decorations, and clothes you won’t see anywhere else. Whether you want to buy something special, get inspired, or just have a fun day out, the Blue Genie Bazaar is the place to go. And if you visit during the holidays, it’s even more magical!

South Congress Avenue

South Congress Avenue is a vibrant and eclectic neighborhood with a mix of vintage shops, trendy boutiques, and unique restaurants. During Christmas, the street is decorated with festive lights, making it a great place to take a stroll and soak up the holiday atmosphere.

One of the must-visit spots on SoCo is the iconic “I love you so much” mural located on the side of Jo’s Coffee.

You’ll find everything from handmade jewelry to vintage clothing to artisanal food products. And if you need a break from shopping, there are plenty of cafes and restaurants where you can grab a bite to eat too! Looking at you El Borrego De Oro!

Austin Christmas Eats & Treats

Austin is home to many bakeries and dessert shops that offer seasonal treats – yum! Here are a few of our favorites!

Holiday Treats

Quack’s 43rd Street Bakery has a variety of holiday-themed cookies and pastries, while Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop is known for their festive cupcakes (holiday eggnog or chipotle chocolate anyone?). If you’re looking for something unique, check out the holiday flavors at Lick Honest Ice Creams too!

Tamale Christmas

One popular Christmas tradition in Austin is to enjoy tamales on Christmas Eve. Many families in the area make their own tamales, but if you’re not up for the challenge, there are plenty of places to buy them. Some popular spots include Tamale House East, Rosita’s Al Pastor, and Tamale Addiction.

If you’re looking for a fun activity to do with friends or family, consider hosting a tamale-making party. You can buy masa (corn dough) and other ingredients at local grocery stores like H-E-B or Fiesta, and then spend the afternoon making tamales together. It’s a great way to bond and create memories while also enjoying a delicious Christmas tradition!

Hot Cocoa Spots

There’s nothing quite like sipping on a warm cup of hot cocoa on a chilly winter day. I am not a coffee girl or a tea girl (I know, I know), so when it comes to a hot drink craving, I always reach for hot chocolate. Luckily, Austin has plenty of great spots to indulge in this winter treat!

One popular spot is Mozart’s Coffee Roasters, which is known for its impressive light display during the holiday season. They also offer a variety of hot cocoa flavors, including Mexican hot chocolate and peppermint hot chocolate at their Bavarian marketplace – it is magical!

Another great option is Whisler’s with its Oaxacan hot chocolate and Lick’s Honest Ice Cream which tops its hot cocoa with two scoops!

More Festive Fun Near Austin for Christmas

Visit the Most Beautiful Town Square in Texas

Georgetown, Texas is a sweet town to explore for shopping, nature, and great restaurants. Hailed as the most beautiful Town Square in Texas, their downtown is incredibly charming during the holidays! Take a short drive from Austin to enjoy Christmas in Georgetown.

Read More about Georgetown:

Georgetown Texas Christmas tree
Georgetown Christmas

Wimberley’s Trail of Lights

Wimberley is a small, sweet Hill Country town that just exudes festive charm during the holidays. Their downtown is artistic, colorful, and unique. The star of the show during the holidays, is the Trail of Lights which winds along a mile long path through the rural gardens with a campfire an s’mores roasting as a finale.

Marble Falls’ Walkway of Lights

The Walkway of Lights in Marble Falls is one of our family favorites. A gorgeous path of twinkling lights to w through (for free!), a magical outdoor ice rink, and other fun activities such as ice sculpting nd falling snow put s Marble Falls on our bucket list every Christmas.

You’ll only need to drive one hour from Austin to take advantage of this merry gem.

German Holidays in Fredericksburg

Christmas in Fredericksburg is nothing short of magical with its German traditions, festive Marktplatz, wine tasting, and delicious restaurants. Just an hour and half drive from Austin, this Hill country gem is worth the drive.

Santa’s Ranch in New Braunfels

If you’re looking for more Christmas lights, Santa’s Ranch is another must-see attraction. You can enjoy a spectacular light show from the comfort of your car as you drive through the mile-long route. With over one million lights and 100 displays and animations, it’s a festive experience that the whole family will love.

Twinkliest Lights in Johnson City

Seriously the twinkliest. Millions of lights in Johnson City put this town on the list for Christmas fun near Austin as the lights are SO bright that they can be seen by NASA from space!

Johnson City Christmas Lights near Austin

Holiday Getaway at Lost Pines in Bastrop

One of our favorite family resorts in Austin is Hyatt Regency Lost Pines. With on site restaurants, spacious rooms, a heated pool, festive activities, a beautifully decorated lobby, complimentary bikes, s’mores by the fire, and more, this place is the real deal when it comes to a holiday getaway that includes it all.

FAQs: Austin Christmas

What are the best Christmas shows to see in Austin?

If you’re looking for some festive entertainment, there are several great Christmas shows to see in Austin. The Zach Theatre puts on an annual production of “A Christmas Carol,” and the Ballet Austin performs “The Nutcracker.” Both are popular and highly recommended.

What are some fun things to do in Austin around Christmas?

There are plenty of fun things to do in Austin during the holiday season. You can visit the Trail of Lights at Zilker Park, ice skate at Whole Foods Market Ice Rink, or go on a holiday-themed Austin Eats Food Tour.

Are there any special holiday events happening in Austin?

Yes, there are many special holiday events happening in Austin. You can check out Santa on the Terrace at the Long Center, attend the Austin Symphony Orchestra’s Christmas in the Community concerts, or enjoy the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar for unique shopping and live music.

What are the top Christmas hotels to stay at in Austin?

If you’re looking for a festive place to stay, the Driskill Hotel is a popular choice. They offer Victorian Holiday Teas and a Tree Lighting ceremony. The Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa and Four Seasons Hotel Austin also offer holiday packages and events.

Is Austin a good place to visit during the Christmas season?

Absolutely! Austin comes alive during the Christmas season with holiday lights, festive events, and unique shopping experiences. The weather is mild, and the city is full of holiday cheer. It’s a great time to visit!

What is the famous street in Austin that has Christmas lights?

The famous street in Austin that has Christmas lights is 37th Street. The residents of this street go all out with their holiday decorations, and it’s become a popular attraction for a unique Christmas lights show.

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